Abortion Protester Settles FACE Act Lawsuit

After intimidating several women at a legal abortion clinic in Louisville, Kentucky, protester David Hamilton was required by the federal government to pay a $2,500 fine to his victims.  

Hamilton was charged with disorderly conduct by local Louisville police after he shoved and pushed clinic escorts at the EMW Women's Surgical Center in January 2010.  Criminal charges for disorderly conduct were dropped after Hamilton agreed to perform eight hours of community service.  However, the federal government sued Hamilton under the FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act, which makes it federally prohibited conduct to intimidate or assault anyone attempting to obtain or give reproductive health services.

Initially, courts were divided over whether Hamilton's case qualified under the FACE Act.  Because the people Hamilton had touched were volunteer clinic escorts, one judge likened them to “counter-protesters” rather than people who were actively engaged in providing reproductive health services for the clinic.

Hamilton was one of several protesters engaged in a practice they describe as “sidewalk counseling” for women seeking abortions at the EMW Women's Surgical Center.  This “sidewalk counseling” often includes intimidating language and insults, necessitating clinic escorts to walk women from their cars to the clinic's front door.  The clinic escorts provide “human shields” to help women obtaining abortions get into the building without risking being assaulted by protesters.  They can also provide emotional support to women who are verbally intimidated by protesters.

Because of these roles of clinic escorts, the federal government continued their prosecution of Hamilton for FACE Act violations.  On January 13, 2013, Hamilton announced that he and the Justice Department had reached an agreement for him to pay civil damages in the amount of $2,500, which will be given to the clinic escort he is accused of shoving and grabbing.

Anti-abortion groups were outraged by Hamilton's prosecution under the FACE Act, claiming that the clinic escort who had been assaulted was a counter-protester and that Hamilton's protest had been fully peaceful.  These groups have claimed that they have been persecuted by Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, and that Hamilton's arrest was simply an extension of this persecution.

Hamilton no longer lives in Louisville and has not been arrested since 2010 for his abortion protest activities.  According to the FACE Act, victims may seek up to a maximum of $5,000 in statutory damages from protesters who intimidate or physically harass them for attempting to obtain or deliver reproductive health services.

Source: justice.gov

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